There are three significant factors worth noting as the 2011 MotoGP Championship heads into the penultimate round this weekend at Sepang in Malaysia – it will be the third week of racing this month, there’s a new champion, and last year’s title winner will be sidelined.
The long, 3.447-mile Sepang circuit will not only challenge riders due to it’s layout, but also play on the physical aspects of the grid due to hectic scheduling. The 2011 MotoGP grid began the first week of October in Motegi, followed it up with Phillip Island the second week and will now race at Sepang this weekend.
Although exhausting, Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner showed he once again has the discipline to be number one. This came after the Australian’s domination at his home circuit in Phillip Island last weekend, Stoner topping all three practice sessions, qualifying on pole and then leading all 27 laps to take the win.
The win would be the most significant in Stoner’s season; it was his ninth of the 2011 MotoGP Championship, and allowed him to clinch the title. This is Stoner’s second championship, his first arriving in 2007 (Ducati).
The only man who was able to challenge Stoner for this year’s MotoGP Championship was Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo. But the Spaniard suffered a hectic highside during warm-up for last weekend’s Australian GP, injuring his left fingers. Lorenzo underwent successful surgery, but due to recovery will not be on this weekend’s Sepang grid.
But there will be substitute running for Lorenzo, Yamaha M1 test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga, a Japan RR Champion.
Although the title is in hand, Stoner has something big to fight for at Sepang – Honda’s first win at Sepang in the 800cc era. Stoner has won at the track throughout all classes (125cc, 250cc, MotoGP), and will be starting his 100th premier-class race this weekend.
With Lorenzo out, Stoner’s biggest challenge will likely arrive from his teammate Andrea Dovizioso, who could mathematically take second place in the championship over Lorenzo. Heading into Sepang, Dovi, who will ride on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha in 20120 MotoGP, trails Lorenzo by 48 points.
But only four points behind Dovizioso is the other Repsol Honda rider, Dani Pedrosa. The Spaniard has luck at Malaysia, also – a win each there in the 125cc and 250cc classes, and three podiums in the premier class.
A further 55 points behind in fifth place is Yamaha Factory Racing’s Ben Spies, who missed Phillip Island due to a high-speed crash during qualifying. Spies attempted the warm up, but wasn’t up to 100-percent health to compete.
After taking his second podium of the 2011 MotoGP Championship behind Stoner last weekend at Phillip Island, San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli now ties with Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi; both riders have 139 points, holding the sixth and seventh positions, and trail Spies by 17 points.
Rossi has struggled all year on the Ducati, and crashed out of Phillip Island last weekend. As for Sepang, he finished on the podium 11 times there, and had the last victory of is career there last season.
Seven points behind the tied pair of Simoncelli and Rossi is the other Ducati team rider, Nicky Hayden. The American has never stood on the podium, but finished fourth at Sepang twice.
Rounding out the top 10 in points are Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Colin Edwards and Simoncelli’s MotoGP teammate, Hiroshi Aoyama.
John Hopkins will once again ride as a Wildcard on a second Rizla Suzuki GSVR next to Alvaro Bautista. As for Mapfre Aspar Ducati’s Hector Barbera, who missed Phillip Island due to a fractured collarbone, it wasn’t reported if he’ll start this weekend, or if anyone will substitute at Sepang MotoGP.
2011 Sepang MotoGP Broadcast Schedule
The 2011 Sepang MotoGP will be broadcast on SPEED TV at 4 a.m. (EDT) Sunday, Oct. 23, and again at 1 p.m.
2011 MotoGP Championship Point Standings (After 16 of 18 rounds)
|16.||Randy DE PUNIET||Ducati||FRA||49|